Posts tagged ‘Oxfam’

September 12, 2013

Oxfam speaks out on human cost of austerity

Today Oxfam published their briefing paper, A Cautionary Tale: The true cost of austerity and inequality in Europe. They describe the enormous suffering and waste that austerity measures have caused both in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. As a mental health professional, I’m particularly disheartened that suicide rates are increasing in the UK after years of decline. They’re also on the increase in Spain. I suspect this tragic increase is a reflection of lower standards of living, greater inequality, higher unemployment and the slashing of public services to help vulnerable people.

Oxfam point out that this is a tale they’ve seen elsewhere.

The European experience bears striking similarities to the structural adjustment policies imposed on Latin America, South-East Asia, and Sub-Saharan African in the 1980s and 1990s. Countries in these regions received financial bailouts from the IMF and the World Bank after agreeing to adopt a range of policies including public-spending cuts, the nationalization of private debt, reductions in wages, and a debt management model in which repayments to creditors of commercial banks took precedence over measures to ensure social and economic recovery. These policies were a failure; a medicine that sought to cure the disease by killing the patient.

They also have some unpleasant predictions for the future.

Austerity measures will have impacts beyond their period of implementation. The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that poverty rates in the UK will have increased by between 2.5 and 5 percentage points by 2020, equivalent to 2.7 million more people living in poverty.

Europe could have an additional 15 to 25 million people living in poverty by 2025 if austerity measures continue, equivalent to the population of the Netherlands and Austria combined.

At best, the countries most affected by austerity will become the most unequal in the Western world. At worst, they will rank amongst the most unequal anywhere in the world.

Nice.

Oxfam point out that austerity isn’t even succeeding on its own terms, with most EU countries seeing their debt-to-GDP ratio go up, not down.

Ireland’s return to growth is often held up as an exception to the above. Yet Ireland potentially offers a window into the future for other EU countries, with reports of high levels of regional income inequality, insecure employment and significantly decreased spending power. Moreover, Ireland is highly dependent upon the state redistributing income through taxes and transfers, a feat which is likely to diminish as austerity measures continue to bite.

They call for an end to this failed approach, arguing that the EU should accept that much of the current public debt is simply unpayable, and should negotiate a restructuring or cancellation of the debts. This should be combined with stimulus programmes, investment in public services, strengthening of democracy and fairer taxation.

You can read the full report here.

 

May 30, 2013

Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty report on Food Poverty

Today Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty have published a report, Walking the Breadline: The Scandal of Food Poverty in 21st Century Britain. They highlight the alarming rise of people dependent on food banks in the UK (currently a whopping half a million people, according to their estimates). Even more worryingly, they point out that up to half of these people are seeking out food banks due to benefits being delayed, reduced or withdrawn altogether. They expect these numbers to rise with the introduction of Universal Credit.

They make the following recommendations:

1. The House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee conducts an urgent inquiry into the relationship between benefit delay, error or sanctions, welfare reform changes, and the growth of food poverty.
2. The Department for Work and Pensions publishes data on a regular basis on the number and type of household who are deprived of their benefits by reason of benefit delay, error or sanctions; the numbers leaving and returning to benefits after a short period of time, and the number of referrals from Jobcentre staff to local food banks.
3. The Department for Work and Pensions commission independent monitoring of the roll-out of Universal Credit, to ensure that there is no unintentional increase in food poverty.
4. All referrals to food banks/emergency food aid provision, made by government agencies, be recorded and monitored in order to establish more accurate numbers on people experiencing food poverty in the UK.
5. HM Treasury make tackling tax dodging an urgent priority, including promoting robust and coordinated international action at the forthcoming G8 meeting in Northern Ireland in June – to reduce the need for future cuts in benefits, and restore the principle that benefits should at least rise in line with inflation.

 

You can read the full report here.

January 31, 2013

Oxfam calls for crackdown on tax evasion to tackle UK poverty

Today brings the welcome news that Oxfam have joined calls for more to be done to tackle tax evasion in the UK, and for the money recouped to be channelled into reducing poverty. They estimate that the tax coffers lose out by £5.2 billion a year due to offshoring of assets by wealthy individuals. They give the following examples of how this money could be used if recovered:

 

Oxfam tax evasion UK poverty

 

Read their report in full here.

 

June 14, 2012

Oxfam warns of “Perfect Storm” of UK poverty

Today, Oxfam released a briefing paper: The Perfect Storm: Economic stagnation, the rising cost of living, public spending cuts, and the impact on UK poverty.

The paper warns of an assault from all sides on Britain’s poor, caused by a toxic combination of rising unemployment, declining incomes, increased cost of living, public service cuts, benefit cuts, housing shortages and weak labour rights.

The government‟s rapid deficit reduction measures are hitting the livelihoods of almost everyone in the UK, but the particular approach taken is hurting people living in poverty the most. The focus on cutting public spending rather than raising taxes is deeply regressive, and the blend of tax increases chosen is itself regressive. In addition, both public spending cuts and the tax and benefit changes introduced by this government will have a significantly more negative impact on women than on men.

At the same time, we are seeing a synergy of economic and social needs. Protecting the incomes of the poorest people is crucial for both social and economic reasons. It is people on low incomes who are being hurt the most by the Perfect Storm, and increasing the incomes of the poorest will have the strongest multiplier effect on aggregate demand in the economy. By prioritising and targeting social and economic investment, the government can ensure that it protects the services upon which those in poverty most rely, while helping to boost demand and provide investment in the long-term productive capacity of the economy.

Oxfam are calling for decisive action to safeguard the increasing number of British people living in poverty, which shames our status as one of the richest nations in the world.

Protect the incomes of the low paid, reducing the withdrawal rate of Universal Credit from 65 per cent to 55 per cent to ensure that work pays, and increasing the National Minimum Wage at least in line with inflation or average earnings, whichever is the higher;
Protect people in poverty from the increasing cost of living, by giving new powers to Ofgem to cap fuel prices; introducing a maximum level of interest; and protecting the Social Fund and expanding its resources, to protect people from exploitation and to guard against problem debt;
Protect public services, by using progressive taxation to slow the speed and depth of cuts; ring-fencing the Sure Start grant to local authorities in England; and exploring investing in a national system of universal child care, to make work pay for women and to build the social infrastructure of the country;
Protect the social safety-net, by giving local authorities in England and Wales sufficient resources to maintain existing levels of Council Tax Benefit; monitoring the effect of the Housing Benefit and overall benefit caps; reversing the switch from RPI to CPI inflation for benefit uprating; maintaining real Child Benefit levels; and reversing cuts to child-care support;
Provide secure, affordable, decent housing for all, by investing in affordable homes to boost the economy and to help solve the housing crisis; and increasing maximum penalties for rogue landlords;
Protect rights at work: the weak labour market is adding to the power that employers have over workers, and so it is essential to maintain and enforce the vital protections that do exist for vulnerable workers;
Move towards a fairer tax system by clamping down on tax avoidance; introducing a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions, to help protect public services and benefits and ensure that everyone pays their fair share; and exploring options for a land value tax; and
Rethink how we measure value: the social damage caused by inequality, high unemployment, and environmental degradation all tell us that it is not growth that matters, but the type and distribution of growth; measuring true social value through a measure of well-being such as Oxfam Scotland‟s Humankind Index will help us to measure whether what we are doing to fix the economy is really, sustainably benefiting society.

While such a paper wouldn’t be so surprising if it came from the likes of, say, UKUncut, this is from a major charity more usually associated with providing aid to the developing world. That they now feel it necessary to speak out about the way we treat our own poor may speak volumes about the increasing levels of inequality and hardship on our doorsteps.

You can read the full briefing paper here.

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